May 18, 2009
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam chief Velupillai Prabhakaran is dead, says Sri Lankan army. The rebel leader was reportedly killed earlier today when he was trying to escape from the war zone in an ambulance with two of his aides.
The leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels, Velupillai Prabhakaran, is dead, the Sri Lankan military has said.
The announcement on state television came shortly after the military said it had surrounded Prabhakaran in a tiny patch of jungle in the north-east.
The head of the Sri Lankan army Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka said the military had defeated the rebels and "liberated the entire country".
The claims cannot be verified as reporters are barred from the war zone.
"Today we finished the work handed to us by the president to liberate the country from the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)," Gen Fonseka said in the broadcast.
He said troops were working to identify Prabhakaran's body from among the dead.
Sri Lankan forces had routed the rebels in the past few weeks, over-running their territory and bringing the 26-year war to its conclusion.
The broadcast quoted military officials as saying Prabhakaran was killed along with two of his deputies.
It said Prabhakaran, his intelligence chief Pottu Amman and Soosai, the head of the rebels' naval wing, were shot dead in an ambush in the Mullivaikal district while trying to escape the war zone in an ambulance.
Earlier, at least three senior rebel leaders were killed, including Prabhakaran's eldest son, Charles Anthony, the military said.
State TV broadcast images of what it said was Charles Anthony's body.
Military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara confirmed Prabhakaran's death, saying 250 Tamil Tigers were also killed overnight.
The government's information department also sent news of Prabhakaran's death by text message to mobile phones across the country.
In the past few days, the LTTE had been hemmed into a 300 sq metre (3,230 sq ft) patch of land - a tiny part of the 15,000 sq km territory they had controlled until recently.
The BBC's world affairs correspondent Adam Mynott says Prabhakaran was a shadowy figure, constantly under the threat of arrest or assassination.
He says he fashioned a ruthless and uncompromising fighting force, which assassinated several Sri Lankan political leaders and the former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.
Under Prabhakaran's leadership the LTTE was branded a terrorist organisation by many countries, and he was wanted by Interpol - the global police network - for murder, terrorism, organised crime and conspiracy.
Anger and jubilation
There is still widespread international concern about civilians who may have been caught up in the fighting.
Sources in the UN say significant numbers of civilians were still in the combat zone but the Sri Lankan government said all civilians had left.
There have been street celebrations in the capital, Colombo, but also an angry demonstration against Britain, with protestors accusing it of seeking to help the rebels by earlier calling for a ceasefire.
More than 1,000 Sri Lankans protested outside the British High Commission. Some protesters threw stones and burnt an effigy of UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
A High Commission spokesman said it was "an outrage" that the Sri Lankan authorities let the demonstration become so violent.
The Tigers had been fighting for a separate state for Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka since the 1970s.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict and thousands displaced.